Jigokudani Monkey Park
One place to visit during winter in Japan is Jigokudani Monkey Park
The monkeys are wild yet have a few incentives to stay in the area, regular feedings from the park staff and a hot spring to keep warm.
Although they never appeared cold to me, they would jump out of the water and walk around dripping wet without any signs of shivering
The adults looked more like gorillas, everyone in the group would run away in fear when certain large ones approached
The smaller Japanese macaques liked to make faces and would hide in mothers arms when people got too close
The park was not my favorite, many photographers bumping into you with their lenses and tripods, I much preferred the laid back atmosphere of the lodge... learning to play go, cooking Japanese meals at dinner and sitting in the outdoor hot spring watching the monkeys roam. More details below. As a side note I also met the couple who filmed the documentary Being Caribou here, they were quite enjoyable to spend an evening with and spoke good English which helps the dinner conversations move along
I stayed at Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan, a two mile walk from the nearest bus stop, but only a few steps from Monkey Park. If you dont mind walking with your stuff a few miles in the snow I think you would enjoy it also.
I particularly liked the lodge hot spring (pictured on the left) as it gets visits from monkeys outside park hours. Plan a visit to the hot spring early in the morning and around 4pm when the park closes to watch the monkeys leave into the mountains.
View from the hot spring
Some jumped in the hot spring with me, many passed by
Too many started jumping in so I got out.. as I knew what their teeth look like from taking a photo earlier in the day